Eagle Creek Fire takes a toll on nearby businesses

Eagle Creek Fire hammering businesses

CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. -- In the Columbia River Gorge town of Cascade Locks, the driver of a grey sedan hesitates, as we all do, before pulling on to the main street from a parking lot. But the pause comes only from habit.

There is no one else on the road.

Cascade Locks is still under level 3 evacuation, threatened by the Eagle Creek Fire, the streets mostly deserted.

With Interstate 84 still closed, there are no tourists either. It's hammering local businesses.

“Totally destroyed the whole business for three or four days,” says Albert Choi, owner of the only grocery store in town, Columbia Market.

Inside the store, the shelves are stocked but the aisles empty.

“Businesswise, the whole town is closed. Because nobody's around,” Choi says.

A single customer, Bonnie Hunter, pushes her grocery cart through the store just before noon on Monday.

She stayed away from her home and the fire for a week. Now she’s back.

“It scares me,” she says.

To the east, in Hood River, businesses are feeling the impact of the interstate closure as well.

“With the freeway shut down, there's nobody comin' out, unfortunately,” says Jason Shaner, owner of Rivers Edge Towing.

His business is the only AAA service for the gorge. He says his crews often tow as many as six cars a day back to Portland. But with the interstate closed, that number is closer to one.

“We've got probably nine trucks sittin' here not making any money,” he says. Shaner estimates it's costing his company $1,000 a day in lost revenue.

He's not alone.

Big Winds is a wind surfing shop in Hood River. They canceled lessons for paddle boards and wind surfing last week because no one wanted to go out in the smoke that blanketed the Columbia River.

“We're all about the outdoors and right now--or at least last week--it just felt like we had bars over the window and everyone was shackled,” says marketing director Eddy Patricelli.

He estimates business is down 30 to 40 percent. The company’s online store is helping with revenue, he says, and the retail store has extended its Labor Day Sale.

But at a time when many businesses in the gorge try to put away some money for the slow winter months, they are instead watching the days slip away, filled with smoky skies along a deserted interstate.
 

© 2017 KGW-TV


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